Mothmen, Tulpas, & Deities – Oh My!!

So, apparently there was a recent sighting of the legendary Mothman in Middletown, OH

I say “apparently” because the story reeks of BS to me (in fact, it reads like a bad pastiche of Lovecraft), but seeing it got me thinking about tulpas.

Now, it’s been about 44 years since the Mothman was last reported seen over the Silver Bridge that connected Point Pleasant, WV and Gallipolis, OH. In that time, awareness of the funky events surrounding Point Pleasant and the Mothman during that period has wormed its way through the cultural consciousness to one degree or another – hell, there was a movie made starring Richard Gere, so its not like its relegated to a small, fringe niche. So, if our aspiring Derleth from above is telling the truth and not just spinning a badly-crafted whopper, its possible that they were encountering either A) the actual Mothman, or B) a tulpa.

You may be asking, “What exactly is a tulpa?”

A tulpa is a concept found in the Vajrayana Buddhist and Bonpo traditions of Tibet. Loosely translated, it means “thought-form” or a mental construct of some kind. Traditional Tibetan practitioners would some times create elaborate and finely detailed visualizations (“visualized”, so to speak, in as many senses as possible: sight, sound, smell, touch, etc.) of deities, spirits, lamas, and other beings as a means of achieving enlightenment. The practice of making these visualizations so vivid that they seemed real to the practitioner generating them was intended to help the practitioner generate in their own life the qualities of the deity or being that was their focus. In fact, Alexandra David-Neel, the first European to introduce the term to the West, claimed to have created a tulpa based on a “Friar Tuck” like image that she eventually had to destroy because it began appearing to others and apparently taking on a life of its own.

So, suspending disbelief for a moment, what if a tulpa of the Mothman was stalking a resident of Middletown, OH recently? It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility – hell, it would be almost apt, since John Keel started out The Mothman Prophecies by relating the story of the haunting of Walter B. Gibson‘s old New York house. Sightings of the “ghost” always described it as strongly resembling Gibson’s famous character, “The Shadow”, who’s stories he pumped out at a rate of one novel a month for a number of years while living in the home.

Granted, those who find interest in and follow the Fortean events surrounding the Mothman and Point Pleasant probably haven’t – on an individual level – invested the same amount of time and mental energy that Gibson did for his creation, but when spread out over hundreds or even thousands of people, you probably wouldn’t need a titanic mental investment per person (see my previous post on the Slender Man for an example).

Of course, a natural following question would be: “If pulp heroes and Fortean bogeymen can develop into these tulpa-things, why not deities? Since, you know, that was one of the original aims in Tibetan practice and all…”

And…it’s a good point.

Personally, I accept the hypothesis that most deities that we humans worship are just exceedingly old and built-up tulpas. Now, some might take some offense to the insinuation that deities are the creation of human beings – thinking that “thought-form” automatically means having no existence outside the soft grey-matter in our craniums or, perhaps, that it’s an insult or a sacrilege to saythat gods come from Men.

But, I disagree. One: just because something may be a creation of the human mind, doesn’t mean that it’s contained solely to their mind or imagination (e.g. – Gibson’s “Shadow” that later occupants of his house have been “haunted” by); and two: just because something may be created by human beings doesn’t lessen its majesty. Human beings have made some pretty astounding things in the purely physical realm (the Great Pyramid, the Colossus of Rhodes, etc.), why should that not also be applicable to things created in the non-physical/spiritual/whatever-you-want-to-call-it realm, as well?

Similarly, in the image or the sacramental object the divine Ground is wholly present. Faith and devotion prepare the worshipper’s mind for perceiving the ray of Godhead at its point of intersection with the particular fragment of matter before. Incidentally, by being worshipped, such symbols become the centres of a field of force. The longings, emotions and imaginations of those who kneel and, for generations, have knelt before the shrine create, as it were, an enduring vortex in the psychic medium, so that the image lives with a secondary, inferior divine life projected on to it by its worshippers, as well as with the primary devine life which, in common with all other animate and inanimate beings, it posses in virtue of its relation to the divine Ground….[i]t may be, and perhaps in most cases it actually is, an experience of the field of force generated by the minds of past and present worshippers and projected on to the sacramental object where it sticks, so to speak, in a condition of what may be called second-hand objectivity, waiting to be perceived by minds suitably attuned to it. (Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy, 59-60)

Granted Aldous was speaking of experiences regarding finite, personal deities in contrast to experiences of the infinite, impersonal Ground-of-Being, but the idea remains the same: repeated and sustained worship/belief/attention to something can possibly force a “psychic coalescence”, creating a vortex (or an entity) based on the ideas and energy connected with the worship/attention.

I hate to resort to a piece of fiction for backing, but I have to say that Neil Gaiman’s American Gods has a pretty good framework for this very scenario: humans bring their gods and spirits with them wherever they go (generally, due to belief) and new iterations can be “born” when enough thought/belief/energy/what-have-you is expended. These iterations are basically autonomous: they roam and wander on their own, survive off what belief they can scrounge up (the mythical Soma, mentioned in the Vedas, is explained to be “liquor”, made from distilled and processed belief, highly prized by deities and other various classes of spiritual beings), interact with mortals (usually without blatantly declaring themselves as a deity), etc. But, when it comes down to it, the various spiritual entities in Gaiman’s universe are exceedingly powerful tulpas.

Now, it could be that deities are what the myths say about them: older than Man, completely independent, etc. Or, it could be that there are original, non-tulpa versions of Odin and Iupiter and Coyote, et al, out there and human beings more often than not interact with tulpa versions of those deities (along the lines of the relationship between daimones and their “employer” deities in Ancient Hellenic belief – the daimon of Hermes, for example, when encountered by a mortal, was held not just to be a fully authorized representative of the actual god, but should be treated as if it were Hermes himself). I don’t think there’s anyone in a position to settle the argument once and for all with any kind of empirical evidence, but suffice it to say, I find it hard to believe that Odin has existed since some time out of mind and just happened to chat up some ancient Germanic tribesmen (or –women) and started getting worshipped. I’d say that it’s exceedingly anthropocentric to assume that any kind of “deity” that may have been tromping around the planet for any significant amount of time before humanity came on the scene would be even close to “human-like” for us to be able to understand them, much less connect with them on a deep-level (via devotion, etc.). If anything, if such pre-human “deities” actually exist, they’d probably more resemble the chaotic, barely understandable, perceived-as-pretty-much-batshit insane “fairies”, giants, trolls, and other “non-deity spirits” recognizable from folklore from around the world; after all, these would be intelligences older than – and thus not heavily influenced by the cognitive processes or psychology of – Mankind.

And thus, we loop back around to the Mothman. John Keel theorized that the Mothman and associated Fortean entities/phenomena (e.g. – the Grinning Man, Men in Black, etc.) might be manifestations of “Ultraterrestrial” intelligences – older than Humanity – that play with us as a part of some strange joke. He supposed that these intelligences  – quixotic, bizarre, inhuman – were what our ancestors called “gods”, “demons”, and “fairies”.

And what we in ADF would, generally speaking, call the “Land-Spirits”.

In ADF, we sometimes refer to the deities as “the First Children of the Mother”, but if we suppose  (for argument’s sake) that the deities are products of human belief and “creation”, and that the spirits of the land are indeed the elders of all three, where does that leave us?

Questions – probably with no satisfactory answer. But, sometimes questions need to be asked for their own benefit, even if they lead nowhere productive.

Like: “Why the hell would the Mothman be in Middletown, OH?”

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~ by crow365 on February 23, 2011.

4 Responses to “Mothmen, Tulpas, & Deities – Oh My!!”

  1. I like this and agree with it as a whole. I’ve had similar theories for quite some time, and even more so lately since we’ve been watching Ancient Aliens. Jayne’s belief structure’s been sort of shaken by the show, but it’s just moved my theories to another level. I like what you say about it not changing the majesty of the Deity and I think I’ll read this to Jayne. Lately, I’ve been considering writing up my current thoughts and beliefs somewhere, but if I put ’em up I’ll have to make sure it’s in a place where certain family members can’t see it. I’d never hear the end of it. 😉

  2. If I had to lay out what I feel about deities based on this post (and my life in general) it is this: I would venture to guess that many gods were originally great and powerful men and women. Myth is full of people who were not gods exactly, but who became then in the afterlife (Lugh is an example of this). And of course, that process is not limited to paganism. Catholic saints work the same way.

    So is it possible that these people become myth and the myth becomes tulpa? Yes, and I think probably it’s likely.

    Does that make them any less divine? No. You actually left out the most obvious example of a thing created by humans that is not only not less divine than they are, but can be far more divine and potent: other humans. My parents were both human. yours, too. And my potential is no more limited than theirs. In fact, considering that they passes me the best of them and given that I was born into a time of more possibility, one could say that my potential is far greater than theirs. I see no way it would be different if, instead of being born of two parents, I was born of hundreds of thousands. Imagine taking the best of a while civilization and having your only limitations be mental. Certainly a being worthy of my altar.

    • Damn you and your good thinking! : )
      You’re right: I completely forgot to factor in other human beings there.

  3. I like your view on this, I’m only 13 but for some reason I understood it just fine. I live rite across the river from point pleasant so I’ve heard all the stories about the mothman and I’ve read books on it but I’ve never heard this theory.

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